Police advice to tackle illegal trade of endangered species

Officers in Edinburgh plan to talk to antique dealers, vintage clothing and pet shop owners.

Endangered: Police in Edinburgh plan to talk to antique dealers, vintage clothing and pet shop owners. Police Scotland via Facebook
Endangered: Police in Edinburgh plan to talk to antique dealers, vintage clothing and pet shop owners.

Police in Edinburgh plan to talk to antique dealers, vintage clothing and pet shop owners to raise awareness around the illegal trade of endangered species.

Wildlife crime covers a wide range of criminal activity, including:

  • Damage to a Sites of Special Scientific Interest,
  • The disturbance of sea mammals,
  • Illegal use of traps and snares,
  • Illegal taxidermy,
  • Illegal cockle picking,
  • Removal of birds nests from the eves of houses at certain times of the year.

There are currently six specific wildlife crime priorities in Scotland.

Bat persecution

All bat species in the UK are legally protected by both domestic and international legislation. 

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It is illegal to kill, injure, harass or disturb bats or damage their roosting place, whether this is deliberate, reckless, or even done through a lack of awareness. 

It is also an offence to possess, sell, or advertise a bat or any part of a bat.

Badger persecution

Badgers are fully protected by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, and anyone who takes, kills or injures a badger, or who interferes with a sett, can be sent to prison or fined. 

Snaring, poisoning and the activities of badger baiters are illegal.

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Badger baiting is extremely cruel and the badgers often suffer severe injuries before they are killed.

If you see anyone with digging equipment and dogs in an area where badgers do live, don’t approach them but take note of any vehicle registration numbers and call the police immediately.

Birds of prey persecution

All raptors are protected by law and to intentionally kill or injure a wild bird is an offence, including shooting, trapping, poisoning, or interfering with their nest site.

Wild birds, including their eggs, nests, and chicks, are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Whilst common birds are protected under law, offences against rare species may lead to arrest and result in a custodial sentence or fine.

Freshwater pearl mussels persecution

Freshwater pearl mussels are an endangered species found in rivers in the north of Scotland, the last stronghold of them in the world.

The penalties for this crime can be severe, including a £5000 fine or six months in custody.

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The crime is most likely to occur in low water during the summer months on rivers with good pedestrian and vehicle access.

It is also an offence to intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy a place that mussels use for shelter or protection. 

Shoddy or unauthorised river engineering, mini hydro-electric schemes or fishing proprietors can all result in alterations to the river bed or bank that can lead to large scale killing or injuring.

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Issues

CITES regulates the legal trade of 30,000 species, including birds, animals, and plants whose wild populations are threatened.

Its six current priorities in illegal trade are:

  • Raptors
  • Ivory
  • Medicinal and health products (including rhino horn)
  • Reptiles
  • Sturgeon derivatives and extracts
  • Timber

Poaching and coursing persecution

Those involved in hare coursing will usually use lurchers, greyhounds and whippet dogs.

Deer poaching is also illegal and is a crime usually committed at night, with poachers often trespassing on private land to get to the animal.

Salmon poaching is often carried out for commercial purposes or by individuals and small groups who want to fish for free.

For more information, visit NatureScot or Police Scotland.

If you suspect items are being sold illegally, report it via 101.


Calls for more social housing to help domestic abuse victims

Shelter Scotland is calling for 37,100 new social homes to be built over the next five years

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Abuse: Charity calling for more social housing.

Calls are being made for tens of thousands more social homes to be built in Scotland amid concerns the lack of it stops people leaving an abusive partner.

Figures from Shelter Scotland show 4832 applications were made to councils from people experiencing homelessness who said they left their old address due to violence or abuse, between April 2019 and March.

The charity is now calling for 37,100 new social homes to be built over the next five years to tackle the need.

Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “We support efforts to change the law so that wherever possible survivors of domestic abuse can stay in their homes, and perpetrators are made to leave.

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“But where that isn’t an option, access to social housing must be made easier and the only way to do that is to build the homes Scotland needs.”

The charity has put forward a woman known as Lucy – not her real name – who was sent to a hostel after leaving an abusive partner.

She is now part of the charity’s Time for Change group in Aberdeen.
Lucy said: “It wasn’t safe. There were fights every night. The noise was horrendous. Doors would be slammed.

“I could even hear punches being thrown. Men would chap on my door. It was really threatening and it made me really ill being there.

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“I ended up going back to my ex-partner. I was never more at risk of being hurt.”


Sturgeon: ‘We’re not encouraging you to get together this Christmas’

Nicola Sturgeon said Scots don't have to create a bubble when rules are relaxed over the festive period.

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Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish Government is “not positively encouraging people to get together” over Christmas even though restrictions will be eased.

Up to three households will be allowed to mix indoors for up to five days over the festive period.

They will be able to travel between council areas and across the UK between December 23 and 27 to form a ‘bubble’ – but each household must only join one bubble.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 briefing on Wednesday, the First Minister said: “That does not mean we are positively encouraging people to get together.

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“I want to stress today that just because we are allowing people to create a bubble, it does not mean that you have to do it.

“And if you do choose to do it at all, you don’t have to do it to the maximum permitted.”

She added: “We are relying on people to make informed choices about whether or not to come together at all over the Christmas period.”

Sturgeon said guidance will be issued on Thursday.

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Key points will include encouraging people to stay at home if they can, as well as limiting visits to other households.

Other suggestions include meeting family and friends for a walk and exchanging presents outdoors.

The First Minister said: “These are all difficult things to live by. As we head towards Christmas all of this will feel even more difficult – and that is saying something – than it has over these past eight months.

“As we go through this tough winter and tough festive period for all of us, let’s keep our eyes on that light that is getting brighter almost every day that passes right now that is there on the horizon.

“The end is in sight, let’s not forget that as we keep ourselves motivated through the remainder of this pandemic.”

At the briefing, Sturgeon revealed that a further 44 people have died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

Total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 90,961 – a jump of 880 in the past 24 hours.

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The official death toll in Scotland now stands at 3588, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is at least 5380.

Of the new cases, 260 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 190 are in Lanarkshire, 122 are in Grampian and 94 are in Lothian.

The remaining cases are spread across eight other health board areas.

According to management information reported by NHS boards across Scotland, 1161 people are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 – a decrease of 36 overnight. Out of those, 84 patients are in intensive care.

Sunak: UK’s economic emergency has ‘only just begun’

Scotland's funding to increase by £2.4bn as chancellor paints grim economic picture for UK.

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The chancellor has said Scottish Government funding will increase by £2.4bn, as he set out his spending review.

Rishi Sunak made the announcement as he warned the economic emergency facing the UK, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, had “only just begun”.

Official forecasts showed the UK economy was expected to shrink by 11.3% this year, without returning to pre-crisis levels until the end of 2022.

Speaking to the House of Commons, Sunak said: “Our health emergency is not yet over and our economic emergency has only just begun.

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“So our immediate priority is to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.”

Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts show recovery is expected over the coming years, with growth of 5.5% forecast next year as coronavirus restrictions are eased, then 6.6% in 2022, 2.3% in 2023, 1.7% in 2024 and 1.85% in 2025.

The UK Government will borrow an eye-watering £394bn this year, equivalent to 19% of GDP – the highest ever recorded in peacetime.

While Sunak continued to allocate large sums to tackling the ongoing emergency he confirmed there would be restraint in pay awards for public sector workers and a cut in overseas aid.

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According to the OBR forecasts, UK unemployment is set to soar to 7.5% in the second quarter of 2021 – with 2.6 million people out of work – falling to 4.4% by the end of 2024.

The chancellor set out a near £3bn restart programme to help get people back into work. The national living wage will increase by 2.2% to £8.91 an hour.

Sunak said £280bn was being spent on the coronavirus response this year.

Next year some £55bn was earmarked for public services dealing with the crisis, including an initial £18bn for testing, personal protective equipment and vaccines.

Scotland’s finance secretary Kate Forbes said the spending review illustrated the “damaging impact” of Covid and called for investment in recovery.

She added: “Not long ago, we were applauding key workers, many of whom are the lowest paid in the public and private sectors.

“Freezing their pay or suppressing the minimum wage isn’t fair, and makes very little economic sense at a time when we should encourage spending and consumption.

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“In just over a month, the end of the transition period will see Scotland removed from the EU and yet the spending review hasn’t replaced in full, as promised, EU funding for our communities, research institutes or rural economy.

“The spending review was never going to replace the scrapped Autumn budget, and offers little clarity on tax rates or policies that inform the Scot Gov’s budget.”

More on:

Pal fresco: Friends who met for Covid cuppa at border go viral

Tim Porteus and Sheila McWhirter came up with an innovative way of seeing each other amid Covid restrictions.

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Two friends forced apart by the coronavirus pandemic went viral after meeting for a cuppa on either side of a council border.

Tim Porteus, 58, and Sheila McWhirter, 57, came up with an innovative way of seeing each other.

Restrictions on moving between council areas meant the old friends could not meet for a brew.

They both lived in council areas which were in level three of the Scottish Government’s restrictions – banning movement into other areas.

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But to make sure they could still have a catch-up and a tea they met either side of the council border – with a flask and folding chair each.

Tim, who works as a storyteller, lives in Prestonpans, East Lothian, while Sheila, who is a singer, lives in Portobello, Edinburgh.

The pals, who have known each other for 30 years, were desperate for a catch up and a chat, and decided to walk to the council boundary signs so they could see each other without breaking the rules.

Tim brought a flask of tea and some folding wooden chairs, and they sat four metres apart beneath the council boundary signs.

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Dad-of-five Tim said: “I came up with the idea on the spur of the moment.

“It was freezing, we were looking at the restrictions and saying we weren’t supposed to cross council boundaries.

‘I said ‘why don’t we just meet at the border’, and my wife dropped me off – I don’t think Sheila expected me to bring chairs, she burst out laughing and I set up the cafe.’

Tim Porteus

“We have both been struggling a bit with the lockdown, and we’ve known each other since the late 80s.

“We always have a laugh and we understand where each other is coming from.

“Sometimes being behind a screen reinforces the feeling of separation.

“I said ‘why don’t we just meet at the border’, and my wife dropped me off – I don’t think Sheila expected me to bring chairs, she burst out laughing and I set up the cafe.

“It was cold but we had the tea.

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“People were honking their horns and waving.

“It was really good fun, it seemed a bit of a mental thing to do.

“We have always had a creative connection.

“Because we set it up on the border, we knew we weren’t breaking any rules.

“It was like we were in our own bubble, a friendship bubble.

“We had a really big laugh about it.

“It was a bit like we were in a cafe.”


Additional support needs school closes after Covid outbreak

The Ogilvie School Campus in Livingston will be closed until December 1 after cases of the virus were detected.

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Outbreak: Additional support needs school closes due to coronavirus outbreak.

A school for children with additional support needs has closed following an outbreak of coronavirus. 

The Ogilvie School Campus in West Lothian will be closed until December 1 after cases were detected.

Staff at the Livingston school have been asked to isolate and children told to stay at home.

Cederbank, another additional support needs school, has also reported cases of the virus, as have high schools and primaries across the county. 

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The schools affected are: Broxburn Academy; St Kentigern’s Academy, Blackburn; Whitburn Academy; Boghall Primary School, Bathgate;  Croftmalloch Primary, Whitburn; East Calder Primary School ; Eastertoun Primary, Armadale; Our Lady of Lourdes, Blackburn; St Anthony’s Primary School, Armadale and Bathgate Early Years Centre.

A West Lothian Council spokesperson said: “Whilst a number of schools have been impacted by Covid-19 in the last week, this number is reducing and still only involves a small percentage of pupils.

“The majority of pupils and staff contracting Covid-19 is through community transmission out with school.

“We would appeal to all West Lothian parents/carers and pupils to help us reduce the spread of Covid-19.  When a child attends schools with Covid-19 symptoms, it often means that a number of their classmates have to isolate as a result.

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“Children should attend school as normal, unless one of the reason below apply: they are showing symptoms of Covid-19 – a new, continuous cough; fever; or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste; someone in their household has the above symptoms; they are waiting for the results of a Covid-19 test; they have been asked to isolate by Test and Protect; or they have returned to the UK from any country out with the exempt list in the last 14 days.

“Anyone who needs specific advice on their situation concerning Covid-19 and attending school should call the NHS on 111. They can also speak to their school to discuss their situation in confidence.”

Reporting by local democracy reporter Stuart Sommerville


Fans will be allowed back in stadiums ‘when safe to do so’

Jason Leitch spoke about the issue at the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing on Wednesday.

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Allowing football fans back into grounds should not come at the expense of larger numbers of coronavirus cases, hospital admissions or even deaths, Scotland’s national clinical director has said.

Professor Jason Leitch spoke about the issue at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Wednesday after a football governing body appealed to the First Minister to let fans return to games “very quickly”.

Neil Doncaster, the chief executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, made the plea on behalf of the country’s 42 professional clubs – warning they could face a “death knell” if supporters continue to be shut out.

He argued clubs in Scotland “have been hit far harder by the lockout than those in England because we depend much more heavily on gate receipts”.

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Prof Leitch said while England has announced a “route back for fans” in some tiers after its lockdown, there is “mixed opinion” among public health experts about the move.

“We are cautious but we have a route back for fans,” he said.

“The route back for fans is lower levels (of coronavirus) – and lower levels rely on prevalence in the community.

“That doesn’t mean that we don’t engage in dialogue and the minister for sport, officials, clinical leaders, me, others who work with me are very happy to continue to engage with the football authorities and to get that back.”

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He added: “But it is a risk-based choice. We understand the nature of the football business and we need to both support that financially but also support it to get that revenue back for them.

“But not at the expense of prevalence, hospital admissions and death.
“And that is the same conversation we have with every sector, whether it is oil and gas, or nightclubs or sport.”

Mr Doncaster, who wants an emergency meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, said: “Every major club in Scotland has very detailed, well-founded plans in place for safely returning fans back to stadiums, and thousands upon thousands of Scottish fans are simply desperate to get back quickly to watching their teams in the safety of a carefully managed, open-air environment.”

With the UK Government having announced plans for up to 4,000 spectators to attend some matches after the England-wide lockdown comes to an end in December, the SPFL chief added: “We are now calling on the First Minister to do the right thing by Scotland’s hard-pressed football supporters.

“If it’s good enough for English fans, it must be good enough for Scottish fans.

“If the First Minister refuses to allow football fans all over Scotland to watch their beloved teams in carefully regulated, limited numbers, complete with track and trace, she will have to explain to them the clinical difference between Scottish fans and English fans.

“Make no mistake, failure to get fans back in the very near future will sound the death knell for some of our best-loved clubs and no-one wants that.”

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Sturgeon accepted things are “difficult for football” but added the pandemic makes life “difficult for lots of people, lots of businesses, lots of sectors right now”.

She added: “We do have a situation in Scotland where fans are allowed back into stadiums in limited numbers in Level 1 areas, we have seen Ross County had fans back in the stadium.

“So we monitor that and we continue to look at how we can safely increase numbers.

“But the emphasis has to be in everything we are talking about right now about how we strike the balance that keeps people as safe as possible.”


Government could face no-confidence vote over Salmond

A vote could happen if ministers refuse to hand over legal advice about its unlawful investigation of Alex Salmond.

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No-confidence: Vote could take place if ministers refuse to hand over legal advice.

The Scottish Government could face a vote of no-confidence if ministers continue to refuse to hand over legal advice about its unlawful investigation of Alex Salmond, following a second defeat in Parliament.

Holyrood has again voted to demand the government immediately release the legal advice it received during the judicial review about the botched investigation of claims of sexual harassment by the former first minister.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney was accused of “cynically running down the clock” after failing to provide the information to the inquiry into the government’s handling of the investigation.

Opposition parties united to defeat the government for the second time in three weeks on the subject of the legal advice by 65 to 55 votes on the non-binding motion.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton suggested that the Deputy First Minister may face another vote of no-confidence if the legal advice is not handed over to the committee.

Mr Swinney previously survived a vote of no-confidence called in August in the wake of the exam results fiasco.

Opening the debate, which called on the government to release the legal advice “without any further delay”, Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said the government must respect the will of Parliament “if they want to have any shred of credibility left”.

Mr Fraser argued that the Committee on the Scottish Government’s Handling of Harassment Complaints has been asking for the advice “for months” and the government “should not be scurrying around at the last minute, trying to make excuses as to why vital documentation should not be made available”.

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He explained that the committee has set a Christmas deadline for hearing oral evidence and it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible to meet that deadline unless the legal advice is forthcoming”.

“It is hard, therefore, to avoid the conclusion that this is a government which is cynically running down the clock on the inquiry, hoping that time will overtake us, and we will not be able to do the job that Parliament expects,” Mr Fraser added.

Mr Swinney told MSPs that “no final decision has been made by the government” about publishing the advice, but claimed there could be a “very real potential for negative consequences”.

He suggested that it could create a precedent that could “potentially undermine the ability of the government to receive legal advice”.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said the pace of the Deputy First Minister “makes a snail look like a sprinter”.

She said: “The Scottish Government like to think of themselves as world leaders and indeed they are – world leaders at dissembling, obstruction and secrecy.”

Ms Baillie quoted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who, in January to Parliament, said the committee would receive whatever information it required, but said this now appeared to be a “hollow and meaningless promise”.

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Ms Baillie added: “This Parliament voted by majority for the release of the legal advice. This Parliament asked the Deputy First Minister to get on with doing so and if he refuses to do so, he and his government are holding the Parliament in contempt, and it is becoming increasingly evident that he does have something to hide.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton said “the optics of this are terrible” in denying access to the legal advice, adding: “Everything about it wreaks of cover-up.”

He said: “Our patience is at an end and should the Deputy First Minister not deliver to us what we seek in short order then he may well face another motion in the coming days – one which tests the confidence of members in those responsible for blocking the will of Parliament.” 


Coronavirus screening centre opens at Edinburgh Airport

Passengers, staff and the public can receive rapid swab tests at the facility.

Edinburgh Airport
Covid screening: Facility launched at Edinburgh Airport.

A coronavirus screening centre – where people can receive rapid swab tests – has opened at Edinburgh Airport.

The Express Test site, located in front of the terminal in the Fast Park area of the car park, is available to passengers, staff and members of the public.

Results will be emailed or texted to users the next day, however, airline passengers have been advised to schedule a test between 48 and 96 hours before departure.

Those who return negative results will be emailed a fit to fly certificate, along with their test result.

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There is currently a ban on travel in and out of level three and four areas, while movement is not permitted between Scotland and the rest of UK.

The First Minister also advised against unnecessary travel overseas last week.

However, during a five-day period, between December 23 and 27, people will be allowed to travel between council areas and across the UK to form a bubble of up to three households at Christmas.

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said the screening project has been launched so aviation will be a “facilitator industry” in Scotland’s recovery from Covid.

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He said: “Protecting and mitigating risk to public health and providing reassurance and confidence to people who need and want to travel is incredibly important if aviation and all of the industries that rely on it are to recover.

“We have acted with Express Test to ensure we are in as strong a position as possible to allow aviation as a facilitator industry to drive Scotland’s recovery.

“Until then, people must continue to adhere to local regulations and ensure they understand and follow government guidance to protect themselves and others.”

Passengers and staff will be charged a fee of £80 and £60 for the service, while it will be available to the general public for £99.

Nick Markham, founder of Express Test said: “It’s hugely exciting to have teamed up with Edinburgh Airport to deliver the first public airport screening service in Scotland.

“Our mission at Express Test is to provide reassurance to people that they are Covid-free, whether that’s when they are travelling or visiting friends and family.”


Smoke billowed from Leith Docks as fire crews tackled blaze

Emergency crews were alerted to the fire at the Edinburgh port on Wednesday afternoon.

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Leith Docks: Thick black smoke was captured billowing into the sky.

A major fire broke out at Leith Docks in Edinburgh.

Emergency crews were called to Imperial Dock after the alarm was raised on Wednesday afternoon.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said a large machine went up in flames.

There were no reports of any casualties.

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A spokesperson for Spreng Thomson said: “We confirm that there was a fire within the engine bay of a piece of plant in a tenant’s storage yard at the Port of Leith earlier today.

“No one was hurt. The fire is now out and we are grateful to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service who responded quickly.”

Videos and pictures posted on social media showed thick plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky from the waterfront port.

A spokesperson for the SFRS said operations control mobilised four appliances to the scene.

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They added: “We were alerted at 12.18pm on Wednesday, November 25 to reports of a fire within a large machine at Bredero House, Imperial Docks, Leith.

“There are no reported casualties at this time.”


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